How are age-related differences in sleep quality associated with health outcomes? An epidemiological investigation in a UK cohort of 2406 adults.

10 Apr 2018

OBJECTIVES: To examine age-related differences in self-reported sleep quality and their associations with health outcomes across four domains: physical health, cognitive health, mental health and neural health. SETTING: Cambridge Centre for Ageing and Neuroscience (Cam-CAN) is a cohort study in East Anglia/England, which collected self-reported health and lifestyle questions as well as a range of objective measures from healthy adults. PARTICIPANTS: 2406 healthy adults (age 18-98) answered questions about their sleep quality (Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI)) and measures of physical, cognitive, mental and neural health. A subset of 641 individuals provided measures of brain structure. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: PSQI scores of sleep and scores across tests within the four domains of health. Latent class analysis (LCA) is used to identify sleep types across the lifespan. Bayesian regressions quantify the presence, and absence, of relationships between sleep quality and health measures. RESULTS: Better self-reported sleep is generally associated with better health outcomes, strongly so for mental health, moderately for cognitive and physical health, but not for sleep quality and neural health. LCA identified four sleep types: 'good sleepers' (68.1%, most frequent in middle age), 'inefficient sleepers' (14.01%, most frequent in old age), 'delayed sleepers' (9.28%, most frequent in young adults) and 'poor sleepers' (8.5%, most frequent in old age). There is little evidence for interactions between sleep quality and age on health outcomes. Finally, we observe U-shaped associations between sleep duration and mental health (depression and anxiety) as well as self-reported general health, such that both short and long sleep were associated with poorer outcomes. CONCLUSIONS: Lifespan changes in sleep quality are multifaceted and not captured well by summary measures, but instead should be viewed as as partially independent symptoms that vary in prevalence across the lifespan. Better self-reported sleep is associated with better health outcomes, and the strength of these associations differs across health domains. Notably, we do not observe associations between self-reported sleep quality and white matter.